Truffles gourmet food or underground fungal growth?

By: Rob Colbourn

One person's decadent and irresistible guilty pleasure may well be another's culinary calamity! In other words, what one of us craves is most likely another person's gastronomic nightmare because each of us is different in our tastes, our likes and dislikes. Truffles have long been considered an expensive item that comes in solid or liquid form. The liquid is usually seen in the form of oil. Truffle oil is often a cheaper form of truffle as it provides the flavouring and aroma of more expensive truffles. The truffle oil most commonly found used for cooking may actually not even contain truffles however, as it is most likely olive oil that has added synthetic flavourings to duplicate those found in true truffle oil. Many of the better known head chefs do not even realize the truffle oil they use in recipes has no actual truffle in it. There is also a truffle vodka available which is infused with the oil from black Perigord truffles. This may be used as an alcoholic spirit or used in cooking by chefs who prefer the flavours it imparts.

How can a fungus taste so good?

The flavour added by truffles is said to be an "acquired taste" or one that is either appreciated or not. Those who enjoy the pungent taste know it must be used sparingly or it tends to overpower all other flavours in a recipe. Various types of truffle will determine the strength or earthiness of the flavours they add into popular dishes made in gourmet restaurants. There are several highly desirable truffle varieties to be found:

* White truffles aka Alba Madonna or Tuber magnatum are most commonly found in northern Italy, around the city of Alba (thus the name). They are also found to grow in Croatia near the Mirna River. They are small and pale cream or brownish with white marbling in colour. White truffles may be served raw as well as "shaved" over buttery dishes like pasta, fried eggs, or salads. They are generally strong flavoured.

* Black truffles, also known as Tuber melanosporum or black Perigord truffles are most often found growing in France's Perigord region around hazelnut and oak trees. Milder in flavour than the white truffle, they are larger and pleasantly scented (said to fill the room immediately after cutting into one). They are most commonly shaved gently to peel the savoury delectable rather than merely hack away at it. Japanese call the black truffle umami which means savoury pleasant and tasty.

* Burgundy or black summer truffles can be found throughout most of Europe and are highly prized for their culinary value and mild aroma. Paler in colour than the black truffle, these varieties are lower in price and of somewhat lower quality as far as their flavour.

* A less popular Scorzone truffle, the pecan truffle (tuber lyonii), and the Oregon white truffle (tuber oregonense) are grown in the U.S. the pecan truffle is, as the name would imply, found growing along side pecan trees in the southern U.S. and have been found to sell for $100 per pound in gourmet restaurants. Growers have discarded the pecan truffle, thinking them to be a nuisance.

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Why not experiment with white truffles in your cooking and buy truffle online when you want to treat yourself.

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